Walter L. Pforzheimer, 88, a lawyer who was the first legislative counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency and a bibliophile who was the first curator of its Historical Intelligence Collection, died Feb. 10 at his home in Washington. He had diabetes and in recent years had been incapacitated by several strokes.
Mr. Pforzheimer retired officially from the CIA in 1974, but he maintained his ties with the agency, meeting from time to time with its top officers, with whom he shared his recollections and his strongly held opinions on how intelligence and espionage operations were being managed.
He helped draft the National Security Act of 1947, which established the CIA, and was instrumental in guiding it over the legislative hurdles on Capitol Hill to enactment. In 1949, He did the same for the CIA Act, which addressed logistical and housekeeping measures essential to the operation of a federal agency.
As one of a few remaining survivors to have participated in the CIA's founding, Mr. Pforzheimer in recent years assumed an unofficial role as custodian and keeper of the agency's institutional memory. John Gannon, the CIA's former deputy director for intelligence and chairman of the National Intelligence Council, called Mr. Pforzheimer "one of the rare people who really did know just about everything about the agency from the days of its creation. He had an amazingly retentive memory. If you asked him about people or events, he'd have a vivid recollection. And he was a wonderful storyteller. Visiting him was a fascinating experience, having him bring it all to life. There was no such thing as a short visit."
When the CIA celebrated its 50th anniversary in September 1997, Mr. Pforzheimer was among 50 officers and former officers of the agency to receive a CIA Trailblazer award. In a statement on his death yesterday, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet described Mr. Pforzheimer as "one of the CIA's founding fathers and enduring legends. He promoted the cooperation between intelligence professionals and legislators that has sustained and strengthened the agency and the intelligence community."
Mr. Pforzheimer was born in Purchase, N.Y., and graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School. Early in World War II, he helped organize various operations for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA. Later in the war, he was an Army Air Forces intelligence officer in England.
His beginnings in intelligence were almost accidental. In remarks to the CIA's general counsel's office in 1991, Mr. Pforzheimer said that shortly after graduating from Officers Candidate School, he was approached by a young officer he'd never seen. He "asked me, 'Would you like to go into intelligence?' Beats digging ditches, I supposed, and so I did."
Mr. Pforzheimer served in intelligence units that by 1947 had evolved into the CIA. In 1956, CIA Director Allen Dulles asked him to start a historical intelligence collection, and until his 1974 retirement, served as its curator.
Having been brought up in a family of book collectors, Mr. Pforzheimer was a natural for this job. When he was 21, his father gave him an extensive collection of the works of the French playwright Moliere that covered a 300-year publication history. This collection included French armorial bindings on books specially bound for the private libraries of kings, nobles and church officers.
On his own, Mr. Pforzheimer had amassed a collection of the works of the Philadelphia-born novelist, short story writer and humorist Frank Stockton, who lived from 1834 until 1902, and he had begun gathering material for a private collection on intelligence several years before Dulles asked him to create a collection for the CIA.
Back in the late 1940s or early 1950s, Mr. Pforzheimer had acquired from a dealer a letter written by George Washington on July 26, 1777, dealing with documents relating to the British spy Major John Andre. In part, the letter said, "The necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged. All that remains for me to add is that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon secrecy, success depends in most enterprises of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated."
Mr. Pforzheimer's personal collection included a photograph and a visa issued to famed World War I spy Mata Hari, who was executed in France in 1917; a shorthand transcript of the trial of "John the Painter," the only American convicted of sabotage -- setting fire to a British Navy storehouse of hemp and rope -- in England during the Revolutionary War; and an 1864 Confederate States of America bill to create a "special and secret service."
At the CIA, Mr. Pforzheimer's collection of intelligence documents, reference works and literature is known to libraries and scholars around the world, and is said to be one of the world's greatest resources in intelligence literature. Within the intelligence community, he acquired the title of "Dean of Intelligence Literature."
Upon his CIA retirement, he taught courses in literary intelligence at the Defense Intelligence College.
His private collections, including the Moliere and Stockton material, weighed so much that he had to reinforce the library floor of his Watergate apartment, where he had lived since 1967. When he gave the works to the libraries at Yale University in 2001, they included more than 15,000 books and 46 linear feet of manuscript material.
Mr. Pforzheimer leaves no immediate survivors.